It is not going to be easy for the Rulers at their emergency conference

Wong Sai Wan Editor-In-Chief
·5-min read
A general view of Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur February 23, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
A general view of Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur February 23, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

COMMENTARY, Oct 25 — The question before the Rulers at their emergency conference is to prioritise what is the most important matter in this trying and difficult time. Do they choose between livelihood and health against democracy and freedom?

Let’s on the onset agree that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Perikatan Nasional (PN) government is in danger of losing its wafer-thin majority as three Umno leaders are expected to turn against him although their party has said that all their MPs will continue to support the coalition.

It is because of this situation that Muhyiddin and his Cabinet had proposed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to suspend the constitution and declare an Emergency which effectively stops Parliament from seeing a no-confidence vote.

If an emergency is declared, Muhyiddin stays on to govern the country under a National Operative Council and will not have to face a defeat of the Budget and the 16 votes of no-confidence waiting for him in Parliament when it sits from November 2.

But why should the Rulers intervene?

A defeat in the Dewan Rakyat would technically mean Muhyiddin will have to resign as prime minister by convention. He will then surely seek the permission of the King to dissolve Parliament and the country will be headed for the 15th general election, which must be held within 60 days of dissolution.

That is not enough time for the Health authorities to bring down the Covid-19 infection rate.

This is the problem that is before all the seven Rulers who have confirmed their attendance.

Can the country afford to go through a national election after the disaster in Sabah, which has seen almost 10,000 infections since the state poll a month ago?

It doesn’t require a genius to realise that the Covid-19 infection numbers will be 100 times more in the case of a national election as the country is still going through the third wave of the pandemic.

So, a general election is out of the question and that is Muhyiddin’s argument and there is no other way to stop it if Parliament is allowed to continue.

The Cabinet met for four hours on Friday and recommended that Muhyiddin bring their suggestion to the King. The pandemic is on the verge of exploding in the Klang Valley and the easiest thing to do was to implement a full MCO like in March where everyone was locked down and the economy was brought to the verge of collapse.

The National Security Council chaired by Muhyiddin has now turned to the conditional movement control order (CMCO) where it is trying to limit the number of people going to work while at the same time allow the economy to run.

However, the reaction of the people this time round is unlike in March. They are not following the CMCO SOPs — many are questioning the logic of the order and are finding various ways of circumventing it.

Meanwhile, the number of cases in Selangor continues to climb — some 1,279 cases in the past 14 days. The Health Ministry is confident that this rate can be slowed down if the CMCO is enforced strictly. However, it is difficult for a weak government to do so.

Do the Rulers have no choice then?

There are two options: Option one would be to name a new prime minister. This is where Umno’s Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah comes in. He is said to have offered himself as an alternative candidate and form a unity government from both sides of the House to govern until the end of this Parliamentary term in 2023.

An alternative prime minister is definitely an option the Rulers can consider if they do not want polls to be held.

There is also Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who has already staked his claim saying he has all the documents to prove that he has support from a majority of MPs.

The King can also ask him to form the government if indeed Anwar has the majority.

But for the Rulers, they have to be confident that the person to take over will not end up with another wafer-thin majority whose government could collapse any time.

The second option is for the Rulers to ask the King to directly intervene in the political situation and negotiate a truce between the various parties as the country navigates the Covid-19 pandemic.

The King could call all the parties together and tell them in no uncertain terms to allow Muhyiddin to see through the pandemic. In return, he should extract a written promise from the eighth prime minister that he would ask for the dissolution of Parliament the moment the health authorities say it is okay to hold a general election.

This will not be easy as all the political sides do not trust each other.

However, this may be the best way forward.

If he opts to do this, the King must make public the agreed terms so that all parties will be bound by it.

Needless to say, it is certain that it will not be easy for the Rulers when they meet at 2.30pm today, but they will surely do what is best for the rakyat and the country.

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